Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell test positive for banned substances. Can any sport ever be free of doping?
The news that American 100m sprinter Tyson Gay and Jamaican 100m sprinter Asafa Powell - two of the fastest men on earth - are among those who have tested positive for banned substances in recent out-of-competition drug tests, makes one wonder if any sport can ever be rid of doping.
In what is the latest doping scandal to rock the world of sport, 30-year-old Gay was informed by USADA (US Anti- Doping Agency) on Friday that his A sample, taken last May, tested positive. Powell, meanwhile, tested positive at June's Jamaican Champioships for oxilofrine, a banned stimulant for which fellow Jamaican Sherone Simpson also tested positive. Usain Bolt, however, is clean - a fact confirmed by Bolt’s agent - Donegal man Ricky Simms - in an interview, this morning, on BBC 5 Live.
In a statement, Powell has claimed that he had "…never knowingly or willfully taken any supplements or substances that break any rules," and asserted that he is "…not now - nor have I ever been - a cheat".
Gay, currently the fastest man in 2013, is awaiting results of his B sample and has already withdrawn from next month's World Championships in Moscow.
"I don't have a sabotage story...I basically put my trust in someone and was let down," he said. "I know exactly what went on, but I can't discuss it right now. "I hope I am able to run again, but I will take whatever punishment I get like a man."
USADA responded to the scandal by releasing a statement that read: "In response to Mr Gay's statements, USADA appreciates his approach to handling this situation and his choice to voluntarily remove himself from competition while the full facts surrounding his test are evaluated. The B sample will be processed shortly, and as in all cases all athletes are innocent unless or until proven otherwise through the established legal process, and any attempt to sensationalize or speculate is a disservice to due process, fair play, and to those who love clean sport."
Crusades against doping in sport have, in recent years, focused almost exclusively on cycling and justly so; cycling, as we all now know, has been riddled with doping. However, the spotlight seemed to have shifted away from other sports where doping is just as endemic. True, athletics has come a long way from the 1988 Seoul Olympics, where the 100m event was won by Ben Johnson, who later tested positive along with other athletes in the event, and which was the subject of Richard Moore’s book The Dirtiest Race in History.
Gay and Powell’s futures in the sport are, as of yet, unclear, though one wonders if the relevant disciplinary bodies will deliver a punishment that rids the sport of doping. Should life bans be served to athletes who test positive for any banned substances, under any circumstances, to rid all sport of doping, once and for all?
Words: Philip Cummins